'Guardian angel' ... Sharon Rawlinson and Penny, who sniffed out the cancer
A WOMAN found out she had breast cancer after her dog discovered it by sniffing her chest.Sharon Rawlinson, 43, says her Cavalier King Charles spaniel Penny had been pestering her for months until she finally went to see her doctor.
Tests found Penny had been smelling and nuzzling at the area where an aggressive tumour was growing.
Sharon, from Newark, Notts, immediately began chemotherapy, and will have the tumour removed in an operation on Monday.
She said: “Penny was pawing me for weeks.
“She would gently paw me as if she was trying to get something out of my left breast, but I ignored it.
“When she stood on me in the middle of the night and wouldn’t get off, the pain was like a thousand bee stings and the next day I felt bruised.
“It was only when I checked the next morning that I noticed a lump but again I ignored it as I thought it was an injury.”
Sharon, whose mum died from breast cancer, added: “There was something in the back of my mind telling me not to ignore her and then in January I finally plucked up the courage to have it checked.”
After she started chemotherapy in March, 18-month-old Penny never sniffed at her breast again.
Mum-of-two Sharon, a school midday supervisor, said: “Dogs are not just a man’s best friend, they’re a girl’s best friend too. Who needs diamonds?
“She’s my guardian angel. We bonded straight away when she was a puppy but this is just amazing.
“I feel she was sent here just for me and she never leaves my side.
“If it hadn’t been for Penny’s persistence, I wouldn’t have gone for a check-up.
“I would encourage anyone who thought there was something amiss to immediately see their doctor.”
Her husband, council worker Brian, 45, described his wife as “an inspiration”.
He said: “She has such a positive attitude and just gets on with things. Everybody loves her.
“It’s lovely to see the bond that she has with Penny and, although we are going through an awful time, we know it could have been so much worse had the lump not been discovered.”
Researchers in Germany last year found that specially-trained dogs could detect a tumour in 71 per cent of patients.
It is thought that tumours produce chemicals, including low concentrations of alkanes and aromatic compounds, which dogs can detect.
However, there is little evidence of cases of untrained domestic dogs sniffing out cancers in their owners.
Dr Jacqueline Boyd, course leader for animal biology at Nottingham Trent University, said: “They are far more attuned to us than any other species.
“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to say dogs have detected cancers and they are very responsive to things.
“It doesn’t surprise me this dog detected its owner’s cancer.”